At Yesenia's House in Arequipa


We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine everyday 
And the sun is shinin,
In this rainy city
                                                          Brian Smith, Sam Hawksley, Raymond Mcguire

We are back in Arequipa, staying with Yesenia. Things seem to be going fairly well. Aodhan is obstinate and belligerent, but, those things are not unusual in any normal teenager. 

The first morning, I decided to go out with Manolo to see if I could get my computer fixed and buy some groceries. Aodhan did not want to go. We went out later to pick up my fixed computer and get Jose Manuelp and Miguel from school.

When I got home, It took me a little while to notice that Aodhan was wearing a sweater. I   went ballistic this time. I told him to take it off now, I told him he was going to lose his backpack, I told him I would mail the sweater back to Canada. He didn’t get violent. He just looked at me with big sad eyes. “Please, please,” he squeaked out. “I just feel more comfortable. I only put on one, here” lifting up his sweater to reveal his t-shirt underneath, “you can check, I only took one. Please let me have it.” There was real agony in his voice. I looked up into his eyes. I was cold too. It was only about 20C here, maybe even cooler inside the cement houses. I thought about it. I knew he had to have dug around and found the suitcase hidden under one of the beds. I also knew that in the same suitcase, there was two other sweaters and two coats. He was right, he had only taken one. When we left Canada, he could not have just worn one. He could not have resisted that urge to put the second, third and fourth layers on. I softened. This is usually a mistake with Aodhan, but I had to try again. “Fine,” I asserted. “I’ll make you a deal.” Aodhan looked at me, his face pale and fearful of the consequences. “You take off your backpack to sleep, and you can keep the sweater.” Aodhan stared. “One arm, I’ll take off the one arm like before.” “No, I replied, no deal. You take the backpack off and put it beside the bed, or no sweater.” “If I do it, I get to keep the sweater?” “Yes.” “Ok,” he replied. Ok? That was it, just ok? He wasn’t going to argue about it? He wasn’t going to fight me for it? “Are you lying?” I asked. “No” he replied. Last night, his backpack rested on the bedside table beside him. No fuss. No muss. No fight. Ok, ok, a little bit of a fuss, but just to see if he could talk me out of the idea. 

Aodhan said he didn’t like taking his med at night. He wanted to take it first thing in the morning instead. I said yes, and the next morning, he took it, with only a slight murmur of not wanting to.

Today Aodhan wanted to go to the golf club. I took him over there and paid the 10 soles for him to swim, even though he wasn’t going to swim. I paid for the kitchen to make him chicken nuggets and fries and an entire pitcher of frozen lemonade. He calls it Margaritas - but with no alcohol. The whole afternoon, including lunch was still only about $10. 

I went back and stopped at the mercado altiplano to get some cinnamon sticks to make butter chicken and a few other odds and ends. I went home and sorted out our suitcases, and took Aodhan’s favorite pants that are ripped up to the knee and look like they belong to a homeless person, in to be repaired. Five soles. She only wants 5 soles to repair them. That is like $2. I have been spinning ideas around in my head about how to give her more money, should I just give her more and tell her it’s a tip? But like a 100 or 200% tip? Or should I take her little 2 year old boy a gift? Or give him a coin as a gift? There is such a fine line between being generous and insulting someone. I will figure that one out.

I went out again and bought Aodhan some new running shoes. It is hard to get his size because it is so giant. Nobody here has that size feet. I had to settle on blue instead of grey. I will try in one of the other markets to get grey.

When I got home, Aodhan was there, he had taken the combi bus home by himself like I asked him to. He had not touched all our things that I had spread all over the bed and the room, which included sweaters and coats. I was impressed. He could not have left everything alone like that and not gotten upset before. 

At 7:30 I reminded him that he promised to have a shower at 8, and it was almost that time. I asked him to go now and have one. He asked if he could put on the same pants. I said yes, as long as he change into his pj’s for bed, he agreed. He asked if he could wear his bathing suit. I said of course. He asked if he could take his books in the bathroom. I said yes, as long as you actually shower. He promised, but said that he didn’t want a time limit. I said I didn’t care how long he took, but there would be butter chicken ready for him when he was done. He did take a long time. He stayed in there until about 8:45. I had to remind him at 8:30 that Yesenia’s family would be home soon and would need to use the bathroom. Five minutes later I told him that I didn’t care how long he took, but that the little boys would have to come in to brush their teeth soon, so he would have to share the bathroom soon. He finished up and came out, clean and wearing only his clean clothes, no wet layers underneath.

He ate his butter chicken, which I let him serve himself. More responsibility = more rights I keep reminding him. He watched TV for a few minutes and then Yesenia’s family came home. They got ready for bed by about 9:30 and I told Aodhan that we should go to bed soon too. He argued a little, but the argument had no energy behind it. He acquiesced easily and then argued the same way about putting his pj’s on and taking his backpack off and putting it beside the bed. By 10:00, the children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of HO model scale 747‘s, and 18 wheel trucks and double decker buses, danced in their heads...

Aodhan is different now, and I hope this stays. He is not violent, even when put in a situation that would have sent him off the deep end before. He argues, but reasonably,  not with the Machiavellian ferocity that he used to. He is able to wear just one sweater and leave the others sitting there. He takes his backpack off to sleep. He showers with all his new clothes in the bathroom and doesn’t try to put all of them on at once. He tells me repeatedly not to kiss him and screams, grinning ear to ear when I do. He gives me a big hug with both arms to get me to stop kissing him, and then dares me not to kiss him again. Something has changed in Aodhan between Iguazu and now. I just want to keep this Aodhan. I don’t ever want to see the other one again. 

Was it the magical energy of the waterfall? Was it the threats of abandonment? was it the point blank truths I told him? Was it the love and patience and understanding I showed him? Did his meds finally kick in? Did he finally reach some new level of maturity? Was it all the one on one time spent with him? Was it the people accepting him for who he is at the Loki Hostel in Salta? Was it the difficulty of undertaking such a trip and having to struggle through so much together. Was it because I never backed down no matter how bad it got? Does he just want to be good so that he gets a Christmas present this year? Any other ideas? I am so glad and so relieved that he is like he is right now. I am so thankful for this, even if it turns out to be temporary. He has been like this and improving for a week now. 

XOXOXOX to everyone who has supported me and given me kind words to help me get through all of this.


Kathy Kamaras said…

I am so glad to hear that Aodhan is doing so well. I hope that things stay so. Please tell him I was so happy to see his drawing of the buses posted in the earlier blog. I love his artwork and I am so happy that he allowed you to post it. I also liked his snail earlier on.

It is quite obvious that Aodhan loves you and that you have been a great mom. All of your hard work has played a part in all this and I hope that things stay positive. You are both in my thoughts so often.